Israeli Minister of Defence visits Georgia and Azerbaijan, skips Armenia. Why?
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently visited Georgia and Azerbaijan, meeting with the countries’ leaders, defence ministers and heads of special service units.
Why didn’t Lieberman visit Armenia as well? Israeli pundits were asked this question during a TV broadcast on Channel 9 Israel. JAMnews sums up the speculations and hypotheses.
The main issue on the agenda at the Israeli-Georgian negotiations was the resumption of military cooperation between the two countries.
Israel was actively involved in the modernisation of the Georgian armed forces up until 2008. After the August War of 2008 and following the example of the USA, Israel put an end to military cooperation with Georgia.
At the time, both countries explained the move as an attempt to reduce tension in the South Caucasus.
Towards the end of 2017, the USA announced that it may renew military cooperation with Georgia. Now, Israel has also seemingly changed its strategy and wants to renew military relations with Georgia.
Israeli political analyst Arye Gut cited several reasons for Lieberman’s five-day long visit to Azerbaijan, noted for its unprecedented length:
• Azerbaijan is one of Israel’s most important economic partners with trade volume between the two countries approaching four billion USD.
• Azerbaijan is the largest purchaser of Israeli military technology in the region.
• Azerbaijan is a strategic point on the trans-Caucasian gas and oil corridor which is becoming increasingly more important given the increasing tension in the Middle East. It is not a coincidence that Lieberman’s visit has followed closely behind that of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
• The role of Azerbaijan as mediator is growing as the interests of Turkey, Iran, Russia, the US and Israel in Syria increasingly come to a head.
Observers also noted the personal friendship that links the Israeli minister of defence to the leadership of Azerbaijan.
Lieberman did not visit Armenia. As to why that was the case, the following hypotheses were put forward:
• The level of economic and military cooperation between Israel and Armenia is very low.
• Armenia is not a key player in issues of interest to Israel and the US such as the Syria crisis and oil and gas from the Caucasus.
• Israel supports the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict.
• Israel has not recognised the 1915 Armenian Genocide, which is a further barrier to good relations and for which the Israeli opposition criticises the current authorities.